Interview: La Opinión a Coruña (11/7/2010)

PABLO GATO

Two years ago he left journalism to advise organizations and businesses that operate in the United States, among them Spanish banks.  He is the Hispanic journalist who has covered the most international conflicts on US television, has worked for large networks such as CNN and NBC and received two Emmys and four nominations from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his investigative reports.

A journalist from A Coruña in the USA who received two Emmys for his investigative reports

 “Obama’s big problem was his inability to sell his accomplishments”

“[Hispanic Senator-elect] Marco Rubio is being touted as a presidential nominee rival in 2012, but this will depend on what he does about issues such as immigration reform”

Santiago Romero (A CORUÑA)

–   Why did things go so badly for Obama in this election?

–   There are two issues.  The underlying one is the criticism about the high public cost of Obama’s ambitious agenda and the other which has had more impact on the ballot box: Obama has had a huge communication failure; he didn’t know how to sell his accomplishments.  They communicated perfectly well to get him elected President, they mobilized the country, and he actually raised more money than anyone else.  But when it came to governing they neglected that communication machinery.  And Obama has paid for it.

–   It looks like Hispanic voters have turned their back on him.

–   The problem is the immigration reform.  Obama promised it would happen during his first year in office and he didn’t do it.  Therefore, even though there are things that Hispanics say are good and that benefit everyone, failing to fulfill this campaign promise puts everything in a negative light for the Hispanic community.  Everything else is not important and there are a lot of disappointed people.  This cost him votes.

–   Will Obama have to change his agenda?

–   He will be forced to change it or he won’t be able to get any legislation passed.  I think that the agendas of both the Democrats and Republicans will change.  If everything comes to a halt the Republicans will be punished for it, not just Obama.  Now that they’re a majority in the Congress they cannot continue being the party of no.

–   Can these results be extrapolated to a Presidential election?

–   They’re different. There are many people who voted for the Republicans not because of their ideology, but to punish the Democrats.  The Republicans admit that this is not a confidence vote in them, but actually a second opportunity.  And it is limited to the next two years.  It can easily change in 2012.

–   Will [Hispanic Senator-elect] Marco Rubio be Obama’s opponent in 2012?

–   He’s automatically being talked about as a presidential candidate.  Now, the issue is more complicated than that.  First of all, getting Hispanics behind him doesn’t guarantee he will become the presidential candidate.  In addition, it’s yet to be seen if the majority of the Hispanic community feels comfortable with him as their so-called official representative.  Undoubtedly he will be someone to watch out for, but it’s still left to be seen how far he’ll go.  Among other things, he will have to go on the record with actual votes [in the Senate].  The support of the Hispanic population will depend on what he does and the key will be immigration reform.

–   I believe that you are the Hispanic journalist in the United States who covered the most wars.

–   Yes, because it was of great interest to me during a time in my career.  Between that and the fact that no one else wanted to cover these conflicts, it was the perfect combination.  I have met several Spanish war correspondents who unfortunately died, for example Julio Fuentes, who was murdered in Afghanistan and during the Iraq war I met Julio Parrado a day before he was killed.  And Antena 3’s Ricardo Ortega, who died in Haiti.  In Spain the saying is that a cat has seven lives; in the United States it’s nine; I have used up all nine.  I could have been killed several times, but was lucky.

–   You were recognized by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for your coverage of September 11.  How was that experience?

–   It was surreal.  I live near the Pentagon, in Washington.  I was driving and saw a huge smoke cloud coming from the military complex, which took days to extinguish.  I immediately called the office, they knew about the World Trade Center but not about the Pentagon.  It was like the Apocalypse: cars driving the wrong way, armed people crossing the highway and suddenly all the cell phones went off while you could hear explosions everywhere, it was the power lines, but there were rumors that a car bomb had gone off at the State Department.  It just seemed like Washington was under attack.  It was going into that chaotic situation and working non-stop at the news desk during many days.

–   What happened in Washington is the least covered of the September 11 attacks, which is why so many people believe in conspiracy theories.

–   Well… it’s only because there isn’t the same kind of video record as there is for what happened in New York.  My colleague Lori Montenegro was right in front of the Pentagon and saw clearly how the plane crashed into the Pentagon. She saw it, but there isn’t a video where it can be seen clearly as in New York.  That is why all those things have come out.

–   You’ve personally met several Presidents at the White House.  Which one impressed you the most?

–   Clinton, without a doubt. He is able to make you feel like you’re the center of the universe when you speak with him.  Bush is also affable and speaks a bit of Spanish.

–   One of your reports that received an award uncovered something that is not well-known in Europe: the connection between Islamic terrorism in South America.

–   Yes, it’s in the area known as the Triple Frontier between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, the Latin American smuggling capital.  This zone has a strong Arab community and there had been accusations that Hezbollah raised funds there for the Middle East.  We went to find out and surprisingly found people who admitted openly their affiliation with radical Islamic groups and one who told us that he would be willing to be a suicide bomber if he were in Iraq.

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